By MIKE McGRATH
HARRY REDKNAPP may have missed out on the England job but he is still the biggest fan of his country’s team.
And he reckons we have the players to provide a massive shock to those who thought our European Championship hopes had vanished in the turmoil of the last few weeks.
Injuries have sidelined an entire line-up of internationals, Rio Ferdinand has been controversially left out and Wayne Rooney is banned for the first two Group D matches.
Yet Redknapp insists Roy Hodgson has the best set of defenders in the tournament, even without Ferdinand, Gary Cahill and Kyle Walker.
He feels Joe Hart between the sticks, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole at full-back and John Terry partnering Joleon Lescott in the centre is as good as any back five there is.
The Tottenham manager declared: “I wouldn’t write us off. Roy has them well organised and we have outstanding players.
“The goalkeeper is as good as any and Ashley Cole’s the best left-back.
“John Terry and Joleon Lescott? I can’t see there being a better central defensive pair. There also won’t be too many better right-backs than Glen Johnson around. I don’t think you’ll find a superior back five — and that gives Roy a great base to work from.
“He’ll have them well organised to do their jobs and they will be strong.
“In front of them Stevie Gerrard and Scott Parker are powerful. Then you are looking for that bit of flair up front to win you the games.”
Redknapp concedes skipper Gerrard needs to be at his influential best in central midfield, with England missing crocked Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry.
Redknapp said: “Frank is a miss and so is Gareth Barry but you weren’t going to play both of them as Scott Parker looks a fixture and Gerrard certainly will play.
“Again, we are strong enough in there, it’s only the amount of games that could take its toll on the midfield.”
Redknapp makes no secret of the fact he would have taken Ferdinand. He even had an approach rejected by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson two summers ago and still thinks the 33-year-old is world-class.
’Arry added: “We did ask about him at Tottenham. Alex didn’t want to sell him.”
Redknapp rates Hodgson fortunate he can now turn to one of the top performers in the Premier League last season in Lescott.
He said: “The Cahill injury is a blow, as I love him as a player and tried to sign him as well.
“But I also think Lescott is a good player and there isn’t anything between them.”
With Redknapp offering his opinion as an ambassador for Betfair, he believes the Three Lions are good value as an outside bet.
Especially as they could have Rooney returning fresh from suspension for the business end of the tournament.
And finishing ahead of France, Sweden and Ukraine would land a favourable quarter-final opponent if defending champs Spain perform as expected in Group C.
Redknapp stated: “If we can win our group we go into the second round to play — assuming Spain win Group C — Croatia, the Republic of Ireland or an Italian team that seems to be in turmoil. It’s not impossible.
“Wayne coming back when he does could work for England.
“It’s important we hang in there. The first two games are going to be tight and they could even both be draws.
“Then we have Rooney back to play Ukraine and I could see us winning that one.
“The two favourites are Germany and Spain but England are good value at their price and an outsider would be Portugal.”
Redknapp, 65, could be forgiven for hoping England fail. After all, he was red-hot favourite for the manager’s job when Fabio Capello quit but the FA went with Hodgson instead.
Yet he just wants England to end 46 trophyless years.
He said: “I never felt that way. I didn’t wake up the day after Roy got the job and think about anything like that. It’s not a problem for me.
“I’ve a great job at Tottenham and enjoy the day-to-day involvement of managing a football club.
“I don’t know if I would have been happy. I’m not a person who would want to be with the players once every couple of months and do all the other stuff that goes with it.
“They made a decision and I wish them all the best.
“I like Roy very much and wish him every success — and I genuinely mean that. I want to see us do well. I’m very proud to be English.
“What would be ideal? England to win it and, if the draw lets us, by beating Germany in the final.”